Think Twice About Trusting Facebook Profile Data for Research

Thinking about doing a survey among Facebook users?

Great idea! There’s lots of this type of research going on these days.

You can connect your survey to Facebook. Or your company may have a Facebook app, perhaps giving you the opportunity to combine profile data with a custom survey. The specific method of using Facebook profile data in surveys can vary.  However, it is very likely that it will become easier over time to connect Facebook profile data to surveys.

Be warned, however. You should give some thought as to whether you want to accept Facebook profile data as truth. Under some circumstances it may be fine, but under other circumstances you should be more skeptical. Be sure to have thought this through for your survey.

The fact is, a lot of people lie on their Facebook profiles.  To wit:

It’s important to understand the motivations for and the circumstances under which people lie. The same goes for surveys. Whether it’s in constructing a Facebook profile or taking a survey, there are powerful psychological forces which cause many people to give false information.

A good place to get a better understanding of lying generally is by reading Dan Ariely’s new book, “The Honest Truth About Dishonesty.” Here’s a review I wrote recently about that excellent book.

Do you have experience using Facebook profile data in your research? How did you approach the veracity of the profile data?

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About Dana Stanley

Dana is the Editor-in-Chief of Research Access.

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